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"September of '84, we harvested in '84 yet. Luckily my son was helping us, so we did get the harvest complete and we did get the harvest out."
     [Narrator:] "The road to foreclosure began at the export markets. In the late 70s, worldwide demand for grain was strong and prices were high. Many farmers borrowed money to buy land and equipment. But foreign competition and the 1980 grain embargo cut deeply into exports. A surplus piled up and farm prices dropped. Hank was left paying back the David City Bank for land that was now worth half of what he bought it for. The bank was left with loans farmers suddenly couldn't repay. It was one of the first banks closed because of the farm crisis. In Nebraska, a total of 31 banks have failed during the 80s, almost as many as during the Depression. This time, deposits were protected by the FDIC. And so the assets and good loans of the David City Bank were quickly sold to another. The bad loans were left with the FDIC to collect."
     [Hank 1987:] "I have a term loan there, with FDIC, that I cannot pay off totally. So, therefore, no lending institution will pick me up. The FDIC wants me to pay it off. And we sit here not knowing which way to turn."
     [Hank 2007:] "From September of '84 to May of '86 we weren't allowed to keep one penny that came off the farm. The only thing kept us going, my wife and kids, was that we had the auction business."
     [Hank 1988:] "Good afternoon to you, ladies and gentlemen. Happy to have you at the sale here today for Ben Burish. Appreciate having you. Come and see us again sometime when we're lucky enough to have one, would you?
     "It has been my last harvest. My son is now harvesting and he has been since 1985. I guess what I'm doing now is helping him now during planting time and during harvest time. But it has been my last harvest… When we were with FDIC, I got a part-time job, and my salary was $3.35 an hour. At that time, we had eight kids and my wife and I at home. There was 10 of us."
     [Hank 2007:] "You feel beat down. The cupboards were pretty bare, I'll tell you, during that time. It was a tough time. I think I aged a lot during those 80s. They were not fun… I think maybe what helped me was – I was able to talk about it. They had a couple of farm meetings that they invited me to speak at to tell them what happened. So, I was able to talk. And a lot these people weren't. They kind of kept it clammed up. And you know, after a while you keep it clammed up, that chest gets pretty full. I know a lot of them, there's a couple three of them now that passed on. That are no longer here. One of them was not any older than I was at the time. I think it was a lot of stress and different factors entered into it that made it really tough.
     "The day the bank closed, just to give you an example, the day the bank closed I needed gas in the pickup. So I drove to one of the C-Stores here in town, and never thought nothing about it. I put gas in the pickup. So I went in to pay for it and I was writing a check. And he told me, 'Hank,' he said, 'I just got to tell you, I can't take that check.'
     "I said, 'Well, why not?'
     "And he said, 'Well, you know that bank closed this afternoon.' And so I had the gas in the vehicle. And he kind of looked and smiled at me, and he said, 'You know what? I know you. You'll be back. Just go home.' And I did. Don't think that isn't a lonely feeling. I didn't have any cash in my pocketbook, and I was going to write a check. And that was the thing that just brought me to think, 'Holy cow, we are in trouble.' If it wouldn't have been for some of the nice people – Thank God we live in a small community! We live in a small community and people still help you out. It wasn't like – I didn't dare go to some of the big towns and do business there. They wouldn't have done that. I don't know what they would have done, but they wouldn't have done that. So, that helped us out some. That really helped us out."

Hank Kobza – After the Last Harvest

   

Excerpts from Hank Kobza’s Interview:

Logic of Large Farms
Hank's Auction Business
Women in Agriculture
Living in the Country
Internet Over Encyclopedias
Huge Farm Equipment